Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate and build social relationships. It also leads to unusually narrow interests, a strong preference for repetition, sensory hyper-sensitivity, and challenges in adjusting to unexpected change.

Autism also leads to excellent attention to detail, memory for detail, and excellent pattern recognition. Some people with autism also have learning difficulties and/or language delay.

Autism is a spectrum

While all people with autism share common traits, their condition will affect them in very different ways. Some individuals are able to live relatively independent lives; others will require a lifetime of specialist support.

People with Asperger Syndrome have average or above average intelligence and good language skills. Some may be able to function well in school or in the work place but still have a hard time socialising. Others may find even daily tasks related to independence challenging, often because they feel overwhelmed by too much information.

Regardless of where people are on the spectrum, all people with autism experience the world around them in differently, affecting how they communicate and interact with others.

Autism and other conditions

Autistic people are often diagnosed with other, co-occurring, conditions. A correct diagnosis is key to getting the right support.

  • 15% of autistic people have epilepsy
  • A quarter have learning difficulties
  • 1 in 2 self-injure
  • 5% are minimally verbal
  • Half of autistic people have dyspraxia
  • 1/2 have gastro-intestinal pain
  • 50% of people on the autistic spectrum have a language delay
  • 9 of out 10 have anxiety and depression

Autism research is key for better support

Although understanding of Autism Spectrum Conditions has developed extensively over the past decades, we still need further research to improve diagnosis and interventions, and provide better support for autistic people and their families.

The one  thing I promised myself I would never put on Jonty. People hear the word autism and they see limits. Lines. Barriers. But one of the many things he has taught me is that he does not see life with limits. He lives without inhibitions and with that freedom there is all sorts of possible. No limits.

I'm hoping any money raised for the Autism Research Trust helps the researchers push through their own limits. When people have told them to stop, or that they're wrong or there's no answer. They keep on going.

- Frances Lloyd, mother of young Jonty, who has autism

Autism is part of who a person is. For this reason it would be unethical to seek a 'cure'. However, some co-occurring symptoms can cause distress or suffering (such as epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and language disabilities) and it is important that an autistic person has the choice to opt for treatment for these. Autism entails disability in certain environments (such as highly social or fast-changing environments) and it is important that society provides support as this can improve the quality of life for autistic people. Autism research is vital both to better understand the causes of autism and to evaluate treatments and interventions so that these are evidence-based. Find out more about the research we fund on our research pages.